Exam TV will launch channels for each subject

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THE GOVERNMENT is planning up to 10 digital television channels devoted to the most popular GCSE subjects. The channels will broadcast for six hours a day, specialising in such subjects as maths, English, science and history to help increase exam pass rates.

Three specialised channels will be tested in 30 schools from next year, part of efforts to increase to half the number of children gaining at least five good GCSEs each year. The pounds 4m government-funded pilot is designed to test the potential of the system but ministers hope to extend the project to all major subjects. A government source said: "Our vision is that we would have a channel for each of the 10 most popular subjects, so we would have a GCSE history channel, with materials for that course, and a channel for English."

In science, pupils might watch a short digital video explaining the body's defence mechanisms. They could interrupt it at any time to look into the immune system in greater depth. In history, a teacher could use an extract from a programme on trench warfare in the First World War before down- loading letters and other original documents from the Internet.

The system is designed to be used by teachers, but also to be accessible to older children or students studying at home.

The education minister Michael Wills said: "We are convinced that digital broadcasting, with its potential for interactive learning, has an exciting role to play in assisting teachers and learners.

"Using digital TV to deliver curriculum-based services will therefore mean a wider range of services reach more pupils than currently available solely through the Internet and PCs. This is critical in helping the UK to avoid the development of information have-nots who miss out on educational opportunities," he said.

"Digital TV is also particularly user-friendly. It allows teachers and pupils to use the programmes and access the support material at their own speed and to monitor their progress as they go."

Anglia Multimedia, the BBC and Granada Media are to work with the Department for Education and Employment to produce broadcasts for the pilot. The service could also include high-quality documentaries such as The World at War.